“See what the world governing body is doing here!” the prime minister says, “Please give the FIFA’s President my warm regards and deepest thanks. This artificial pitch will allow many youth, amateur and professional players to pursue their favorite sport on a first-class surface. But it is not only the players who are happy and honored, it is also the fans, the city, why even the whole country.” Antoine Ibovi, president of the Congolese football association, is equally delighted. “Rarely have I seen my compatriots so happy and proud.”
Not even the torrential rain that fell on the coastal city three days later could dampen the joy brought by the new stadium and its artificial pitch, which was installed in less than three months despite the adverse weather (unbroken 14-days spell of rainfall meant work often had to be carried out under a large tent almost 24hours a day). The opening matches of the Under-20 tournament were on the verge of being postponed. Eventually, however, the games between Nigeria and Zambia and Cameroon and Egypt started 40 minutes behind schedule. In the lights of the enormous quantities of water that came down, they definitely would not have gone ahead on a natural grass surface. Yet the people of Pointe Noire remained in excellent spirits in spite of the rain. Once again they flocked to the stadium, bouncing up and down on the colored plastic seats with youthful exuberance, singing and laughing. Especially those who had been given free tickets by Hayatou.